Research at the central scientific institution GeStiK (Gender Studies in Cologne) of the University of Cologne defines ‘gender’ as a central processual and structural category and as material-discursive practice. ‘Gender’ is effective in the creation of social order, the production of socio-cultural inequalities, meaning-generating materializations and the production of bodies. ‘Gender’ refers to very different dimensions and contents of meaning, such as symbolic gender orders, institutionalized gender relations, division of labour and modes of subjectivation, identity, sexuality or body constructions/materialization processes, i.e. processes of structuring, differentiation, discipline and hierarchization in the inseparability of materiality and meaning. As critical approaches, gender and queer studies problematize dichotomous confrontations that generate inequalities and exclusions and that prevent the recognition of diverse, mobile differences.
The central academic institution GeStiK pursues two thematic strands in its main research areas: First, the research activities aim to illuminate the entanglements of different dimensions of inequality and discrimination through 'gender', the specific relevance or irrelevance of 'gender' in different social contexts and relations of inequality, i.e. the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, dis/ability. Secondly, the research focus 'Materiality and Gender' aims to address these specific patterns of the becoming-relevant of gender not only as linguistic categories, but (beyond the binary of sex/gender, matter/meaning, social/body, cultural/natural, human/non-human) as material-discursive practices and processes of the production of the world, in which non-human actors participate actively.
In epistemological terms, material-discursive construction processes of 'gender' are focused both in everyday interaction contexts and sociotechnical assemblies, as well as on the level of social structures and institutional action. In terms of research ethics, GeStiK views itself as part of a scientific practice that participates in the creation of conditions for an equal, equitable participation of all members of society and a sustainable, ecological world relationship.